50 Movie Comedy Classics, Disc 4

Broadway Limited, 1941, b&w. Gordon Douglas (dir.), Victor McLaglen, Marjorie Woodworth, Dennis O’Keefe, Patsy Kelly, Zasu Pitts, Leonid Kinskey, George E. Stone. 1:15.

As a Hollywood starlet (Woodworth) and her producer [Kinskey] (and his secretary [Kelly]) get ready to go from a triumphant premiere in Chicago to one in New York—on the express train, the Broadway Limited—the producer gets the bright idea that the starlet would be more appealing with a baby. A railroad engineer [McLaglen] (who’s wooing the smart-mouth secretary) manages to come up with such a baby. The rest of the movie takes place on the train, in sleeping cars, dining car and lounge car (and, of course, the engineer—deadheading so he can take a vacation—has his very own sleeping room).

You see, a child has been kidnapped in Chicago and the kid looks a lot like the “adopted” baby. Oh, did I mention that a handsome but poor young doctor [O’Keefe], who would like to be wooing the starlet, is also on board? I didn’t quite understand the relationship of Myra Prottle [Pitts] to the others, but she’s as funny as you’d expect Zasu Pitts to be. The plot moves forward with that vigor that lots of little compartments on a moving train can give a screwball romantic comedy, with people bouncing in and out of rooms and many misunderstandings—and it’s a pretty good comedy, well played by all involved. Thoroughly enjoyable; not laugh-a-minute stuff, but very good. A few flaws, but the print’s generally fine. (Filmed with the cooperation of the Pennsylvania Railroad using real equipment and trackside shots. Apparently, this flick is loved by railroad fans for its authenticity.) $1.50.

The Stork Club, 1945, b&w. Hal Walker (dir.), Betty Hutton, Barry Fitzgerald, Done DeFore, Robert Benchley, Bill Goodwin. 1:38.

A little old man (Fitzgerald) loses his hat in the wind, and it winds up in the drink—and so does he. A hatcheck girl (Hutton) at the Stork Club, swimming nearby, saves him from drowning. At that point, he looks like a down-on-his-luck type. She gets him a job at the Stork Club as a busboy, which doesn’t work out.

But he’s not all that down-and-out. He’s wealthy, and instructs his lawyer—the wonderful comic writer, Robert Benchley, in a small and relatively straight part—to see to it that the girl’s taken care of, without mentioning him. Next thing we know, she’s in a 12-room penthouse apartment and has purchased two mink coats and a variety of high-end dresses…and, oh yes, has invited the poor old guy to move in (he takes one of the many rooms).

Now, her boyfriend shows up—he’s a would-be bandleader just out of the service—and makes the natural assumption on seeing a hatcheck girl in an uptown 12-room penthouse with fancy clothes and an old man hanging about. Oh, did I mention that she’s also a would-be singer, and a very good one at that?

You can guess most of the rest of the plot. The band can’t get work for a couple of weeks, so she has them all move into the other 12-room flat on the penthouse level. The wife who the old man told to go away four years ago wants him back—and he wants her back, but won’t admit as much. The hatcheck girl begins to assume that the Stork Club’s boss is the mysterious benefactor. Everything, of course, gets straightened out by the end. Well done, well played, decent print, a little lightweight. No belly laughs, but an enjoyable comedy of errors with quite a few songs. $1.25.

The Amazing Adventure (aka The Amazing Quest of Ernest Bliss), 1936, b&w. Alfred Zeisler (dir.), Cary Grant, Mary Brian, Peter Gawthorne. 1:20/1:02 (1:02 here).

A charming little movie, one that’s a full-fledged feature despite its short length (apparently 19 minutes shorter than the original). Cary Grant plays Ernest Bliss, a wealthy young London socialite, inherited wealth, who feels lousy. A physician informs him that he feels lousy because he doesn’t do anything and is sort of worthless; this physician also runs a clinic for the less fortunate. The physician says Bliss could never last a year on his own devices, without being propped up by his fortune. Bliss makes a bet: 50,000 pounds to the clinic if he fails to do just that, an apology and handshake if he succeeds.

The rest of the movie is about the socialite’s quest to make it on his own, starting with nothing but one suitcase of clothes and a five-pound note. Along the way, he meets and courts a young woman who’s not wealthy either—and who almost rejects him at the last moment because she needs money to care for her sister, and that makes money worth more than love.

All well played, and, come on, it’s a romantic comedy: Of course it all works out in the end. The print is OK, but the sound is distorted whenever there’s music—which, given that portions of the film are set either in a high-class nightclub or in a charming little everyday-folks restaurant that has music, is a real problem. Given that, I’ll say $1.25.

My Love for Yours (aka Honeymoon in Bali), 1939, b&w. Edward H. Griffith (dir.), Fred MacMurray, Madeleine Carroll, Allan Jones, Akim Tamiroff, Helen Broderick, Osa Massen. 1:35 [1:40].

Attractive, independent woman (Carroll) who’s executive VP of a department store, makes lots of money, has no room for marriage or kids—and whose somewhat older female friend (Broderick) notes the regret of being too independent too long. Opera-singer (Jones), dear friend of the VP who’s loved her from afar but knows she doesn’t love him. American man (MacMurray) who lives in Bali shows up, young girl in tow, and immediately falls for her—but he’s skeptical of the whole independent-woman theory. And there’s a young woman from Bali who’s wealthy and wants this guy for her very own. Oh, and there’s a wise middle-aged window washer (Tamiroff, in a good if small role).

Need I bother with the rest of the plot? No, I thought not. It’s a romantic comedy. The print’s fine. The sound’s fine. The acting’s OK (Fred MacMurray is a little too brash for his own good, but that’s in keeping.) And…well, it’s mildly amusing, no more than that. (There’s also a supposedly south-seas song with a one-line lyric repeated over and over, and it’s truly irritating.) A bit of a disappointment. $1.25.

Next up, five more Hitchcock movies (all movies this time, two of them silent, I probably won’t start on them until after OLA).

But then there’s a problem–and maybe I’ll need to deal with it alongside the Hitchcock movies. To wit, Disc 5 of the Comedy Classics set is All East Side Kids–all four movies (and, I think, two on Disc 6) as well.

I’ve been watching the movies on these sets in order…and plan to continue. But four East Side Kids movies in a row… Hmm. Maybe two Hitchcock, two East Side Kids, three Hitchcock, then two more East Side Kids…

4 Responses to “50 Movie Comedy Classics, Disc 4”

  1. Steve Lawson says:

    I love that spammers are leaving marginally relevant comments now. Feel free to delete this comment when you delete “Online payday advance’s” comment, Walt.

  2. walt says:

    Hi Steve,

    I think that’s the first one that’s made it past Spam Karma 2…and that was submitted while I was out of town and, thus, offline. Fortunately, an OLA email terminal was just available. Remarkably, I remembered my blog login, so could spam it.

    I’ll leave yours up for a while…as a direct tribute to a “good catch” and indirect, um, tribute to clever spammers…

  3. Steven Kaye says:

    I should really look up some of Benchley’s movies – I’ve read a number of his essays and enjoyed them a great deal.

  4. walt says:

    I know Benchley as an essayist (although it’s been a LONG time since I’ve read everything of his I could find), and his limited time in the movie is in keeping with the dry tone of his writing.